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NATO leaders resume key summit; Afghanistan, Iraq on agenda

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President Barack Obama talks with France’s President Francois Hollande, right, as they participates in a NATO family photo at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, July 8, 2016. Obama is in Warsaw to attend the NATO Summit.

WARSAW, Poland >> President Barack Obama turned his focus Saturday to the fight against extremist groups in Afghanistan and the Middle East, as the U.S. urged NATO leaders gathered in Warsaw to expand their support for the wars.

Violence in the U.S. has led Obama to cut his Europe trip short, and he now plans to return home Sunday.

NATO allies are poised to formally expand the alliance’s commitment of forces and support to the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, just days after Obama announced he would keep 8,400 U.S. forces in the country, rather than cut the number to 5,500 as he had once planned.

Officials also hope to collect enough financial commitments to fund an Afghan force of 352,000, at an annual cost of $5 billion.

Obama and other NATO leaders began the second day of a summit meeting in Warsaw on Saturday morning. It is expected to lead to decisions on troop levels in Afghanistan and additional training for local forces in Iraq.

Before leaving for the summit, Obama said his decision to slow the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan was due to security there being too “precarious” to stick with his previous timeline. He hoped the announcement would reassure allies about the United States’ long-term commitment and win new pledges of support.

On Friday, NATO leaders approved the deployment of four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to deter Russia, as well as a Romanian-Bulgarian brigade for the Black Sea region.

The Warsaw summit, NATO’s first in two years, is considered by many to be the alliance’s most important since the Cold War.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO needs to adapt to confront an array of new threats to its nations’ security, including cyberattacks and violent extremism generated by radical Muslim organizations like the Islamic State group.

On Friday, the White House announced Obama would cut his Europe trip short by one day, in the wake of the attack in Dallas that killed five police officers and wounded seven others during protests over fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Obama will attend meetings in Warsaw on Saturday before heading on to Spain, where his itinerary includes meetings with Spanish leaders and a visit with U.S. troops.

He will return to Washington on Sunday and will visit Dallas early next week at the request of Mayor Mike Rawlings.

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